The colonial construction of Hindustani 1800-1947

Safadi, Alison. 2012. The colonial construction of Hindustani 1800-1947. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Considerable research has been done on the impact of English in India but despite the fact that, for a century and a half, almost all British civil and military officers had to learn Hindustani, almost nothing has been written on its importance to the colonial state. The small amount of literature has focused on a few particular aspects, either the very early Gilchrist years or specifically on the textbooks themselves. This study uses a wide range of archival materials relating to the British learning of the Hindustani, together with the textbooks and grammars they produced and memoirs of those who had to learn the language, both to tell the story of the British Hindustani ‘enterprise’ comprehensively, and to reveal its relationship to colonial state power. The initial premise was that Hindustani was the ‘cement’ which held the empire together. As to be expected, however, over such a long time frame the evidence revealed considerable changes in the perceived importance of Hindustani to the colonial state and links made by many scholars between language and colonial power are in this particular case, shown to be dubious. The study, in looking at an area hitherto unresearched, contributes to the knowledge and understanding of the role of an indigenous lingua franca in the colonial context and sheds new light on its ‘fate’ in the Indian context.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


Colonial history of India, Hindustani, Colonial language policies, British India

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 June 2012

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

02 May 2013 13:38

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:38


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